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Barriers to uptake and use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among communities most affected by HIV in the UK: findings from a qualitative study in Scotland
  1. Ingrid Young1,
  2. Paul Flowers2,
  3. Lisa M McDaid1
  1. 1MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ingrid Young; ingrid.young{at}


Objectives To explore the acceptability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (MSM) and migrant African communities in Scotland, UK.

Design Consecutive mixed qualitative methods consisting of focus groups (FGs) and in-depth interviews (IDIs) explored PrEP acceptability. Data were digitally recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically to identify anticipated and emerging themes.

Setting Participants were recruited through community sexual health and outreach support services, and from non-sexual health settings across Scotland.

Participants Inclusion criteria included identification as either MSM and/or from migrant African communities; 18 years and older; living in Scotland at the time of participation. 7 FGs were conducted (n=33): 5 with MSM (n=22) and 2 mixed-sex groups with African participants (n=11, women=8), aged 18–75 years. 34 IDIs were conducted with MSM (n=20) and African participants (n=14, women=10), aged 19–60 years. The sample included participants who were HIV-positive and HIV-negative or untested (HIV-positive FG participants, n=22; HIV-positive IDI participants, n=17).

Results Understandings of PrEP effectiveness and concerns about maintaining regular adherence were identified as barriers to potential PrEP uptake and use. Low perception of HIV risk due to existing risk management strategies meant few participants saw themselves as PrEP candidates. Participants identified risk of other sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy as a concern which PrEP did not address for either themselves or their sexual partners. PrEP emerged as a contentious issue because of the potentially negative implications it had for HIV prevention. Many participants viewed PrEP as problematic because they perceived that others would stop using condoms if PrEP was to become available.

Conclusions PrEP implementation needs to identify appropriate communication methods in the context of diverse HIV literacy; address risk-reduction concerns and; demonstrate how PrEP can be part of a safe and comprehensive risk management strategy.


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